Avtomat Kalashnikova, in short AK 47, is an assault rifle that was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1940s, by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is a selective fire, gas operated 7.62mm battle rifle, used around the world. AK 47 has been manufactured in many countries and currently, there are over 30 million of these reputed rifles in the world (not including clones and copies). The present model of AK 47, in 5.45 x 39 mm, is a highly improved design and enhanced version of the actual AK 47. The functions of the rifle nevertheless remain the same, irrespective of the variations introduced. Read on to know a detailed historical account of AK47 and know what led to its development.
Interesting Information On Origin & Background Of AK 47
The concept of assault rifles was first developed by Germany, during the Second World War. The Germans aimed at developing a rifle for close range firefights. The German army wanted a cartridge and rifle, subtly combining the features of a submachine gun, suitable for a range of 300 meters. A lighter 7.92x33 mm Kurz was manufactured by shortening the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge case, to cut the excessive manufacturing costs. Sturmgewehr 44 was the first assault rifle produced, although it was not the first one to carry these features. The Italian Cei-Rigotti and the Russian Fedorov Avtomat design rifles were the predecessors of the German format.
The German Sturmgewehr 44 was used against the Soviets during the end of the war, which had a profound impact on the soviet military doctrine in the following years. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the brain behind AK47, was shot in the shoulder in the Battle of Bryansk (October 2–21, 1941). This incident marked the beginning of his career as a weapon designer. He enrolled in a competition for a new weapon that aimed to chamber the 7.62x41 mm cartridge, developed way back in 1943. The competition required the participants to design a firearm, which could be relied upon in the mud-spattered, wet, and frozen conditions of the Soviet frontline.
Mikhail designed a carbine, borrowing heavily from the American M1 Garand, but lost the competition. However, the Soviet army was interested in developing a true assault rifle with a shortened M1943 round. This led to the conduct of a new design competition, two years later. This time, Mikhail and his team designed a gas-operated rifle, operating on a breech-block mechanism, bearing similarities to his 1944 carbine, and a curved 30-round magazine. The rifles designed by Mikhail and his team proved reliable and made it to the second round of the competition.
The other designs entering the second round were those by A.A Demetev and F. Bulkin. When the guns were being tested, Aleksandr Zaytsev, one of Mikhail’s assistants, suggested a redesigning of AK-1, to improve its reliability quotient. This led to the development of a new rifle for the second round of firing tests and field trials. The re-designed Kalashnikov assault rifle model 1947 proved reliable and convenient to handle, under a broad range of conditions. Therefore, the model was officially accepted by the Soviet army in 1949 as '7.62mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK). It is recognized as one of the best assault rifles in the world today.